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Taking Back the Boulevard: Art, Activism, and Gentrification in Los Angeles, Jan Lin

Reviewed by Diane Wong

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As uneven and unaffordable development continues to change neighborhoods across the United States, one of the most urgent questions for scholars in this moment is this: does urban growth have to come with gentrification, or are alternative futures possible? In Taking Back the Boulevard: Art, Activism, and Gentrification in Los Angeles, Jan Lin draws from two decades of ethnographic research, including interviews and participant observation, to examine whether it is possible for cities to promote responsible growth. Can urban growth be managed differently by progressive coalitions working in partnership with elected officials? Lin is particularly interested in the role of artists, cultural workers, and preservationists—both as victims and as agents of displacement.

The book focuses on two historic neighborhoods in Northeast Los Angeles: Highland Park and Eagle Rock. In the first chapter, Lin makes a case for the boulevard as a critical site of urban transition, democratic citizenship, and reclamation. He introduces those who made up the iconic Figueroa, Colorado, and York boulevards before it turned into a hipster cultural scene, including portraits of musicians, shopkeepers, community gardeners, and activists. In the second chapter, Lin builds on the neighborhood life cycle models and stag

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